U.S State Department on Human Rights protection in Georgia
By Ana Robakidze
Monday, April 22
US Secretary of State John Kerry presented this Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The paper, prepared by the US State Department, was released on April 19. It says the torture and abuse of prisoners, detainees and others by government corrections and law enforcement officials before the October change in government, shortfalls in the rule of law, such as lack of judicial independence, as well as the lack of possibility to exercise the fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and expression, were the major violations recorded in Georgia in 2012.
“It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous…The United States stands with people and governments that aspire to freedom and democracy, mindful from our own experience that the work of building a more perfect union – a sustainable and durable democracy – will never be complete,” John Kerry says in the secretary’s preface.
The report states that the investigation of many cases of torture and inhumane treatment were suspended or delayed in Georgia. “NGOs and the Public Defender’s Office reported that victims often failed to report abuse due to the fear of retribution.” Based on the information provided by the Georgian Ministry of Justice, 23 investigations were initiated into allegations of torture, “105 into inhumane treatment, and five into the use of duress to compel evidence during the year, compared with 20 allegations of torture and nine of inhumane or degrading treatment in 2011. During the year, the Supreme Court reported that 15 cases were terminated and judgments were rendered against three persons– two for torture and one for inhumane treatment.”
Some problems were recorded with the use of force by police, as in several cases police officers exceeded permissible limits. Also in many cases arrest procedures were not followed and individuals were not treated properly while in detention.
In 2012, NGOs, business owners and citizens reported property rights violations, particularly in newly developed touristic regions. Concerns about property protection rose when in March 2012, NGOs recorded several cases when private property that was abandoned, gifted to the government, or reregistered to the Ministry of Economy in Sairme, Bakhmaro, Anaklia, and Grigoleti. The report says that many former business owners and individuals “claimed that previous government officials illegally deprived them of their property.” However, it is also mentioned that individuals were able to try to claim their rights on property only after the October elections.
Assessing the situation in the media, the report says media sources were active, covering a wide variety of news. However “direct or indirect government influence over the most watched countrywide media outlets remained a problem.” The U.S State Department says the Georgian government allowed unrestricted access to the Internet, no reports were made that the government monitored e mail or internet chat rooms.
The report notes that there were some improvements in the election code of Georgia. However not all important recommendations by the OSCE and Venice Commission were incorporated.
The U.S State Department also paid attention to workers rights in Georgia. Despite some health and safety standards established by the government to ensure safe conditions for workers, there still remain major deficiencies in the implementation of the labor code. Also, there is no labor policy monitoring tools or bodies. “No government body is responsible for workplace monitoring, and there are no government labor inspectors. As such, the government did not effectively enforce the law in either the formal or the informal sectors.”
MP from the United National Movement (UNM) David Darchiashvili is surprised that the report notes some violations in media. He is sure that Georgian media sources were absolutely free from any political influence. “Georgia can be taken as an example in the region,” he said.
Georgian NGOs are pleased with the fact that U.S State Department noted all cases they have been reporting in 2012.
Eka Popkhadze, Executive Director of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), welcomed the fact that the U.S government paid proper attention to all those violations that took place in the country.
According to human rights defender Nana Kakabadze, it is important that international society is aware of all those crimes that were committed by the previous government.